The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday apologized for the recent Papua New Guinea (PNG) aid scandal, saying the loss of US$30 million was part of a failed attempt to establish ties with PNG and not a case involving government kickbacks.
“We deeply regret what happened, but we believe that no officials received kickbacks,” DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told a press conference at the party’s headquarters.
“It was a diplomatic gaffe, with [former vice premier] Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) being deceived by two liars,” said Ker, referring to the two middlemen, Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖) and his partner Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), who served as the intermediaries in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) bungled attempt to forge diplomatic relations with PNG. The press conference was called after a DPP task force charged with probing the scandal held its first meeting during which Chiou was asked to offer an account of the matter.
Chiou initiated the monetary aid aimed at forging diplomatic relations with PNG when he was the head of the National Security Council in 2006.
However, the ministry later discovered that the US$30 million it had remitted on Sept. 14, 2006, to a Singaporean bank account jointly held by Ching and Wu had gone missing.
Taiwanese prosecutors have detained Wu and are holding him incommunicado.
Chiou, Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) and Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Chen-heng (柯承亨) resigned on Tuesday to take political responsibility for the scandal as prosecutors continued their investigation into the case.
DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), the convener of the task force, DPP Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), and Ker yesterday bowed as they apologized to the public over the scandal.
Ker told the press that Chiou’s account during the closed-door meeting was the same as what he said in public in the past few days.
“Chiou didn’t hide anything from us, and we believe him,” Ker said.
After hearing Chiou’s report, Chai said he understood why Chiou “was taken for a ride.”
“Huang met with Papua New Guinea’s prime minister on Dec. 13, 2006, in a third country, and in January 2007 then vice minister of foreign affairs Katharine Chang (張小月) met Papua New Guinea’s foreign affairs minister,” Chai said.
“Because of this diplomatic progress, Chiou wasn’t aware that [Ching and Wu] were liars,” Chai said.
Ching, currently in the US, and Wu offered different accounts of the matter.
Wu alleged that Chiou, Huang and Ko received different amounts of kickbacks.
Ching, speaking through his attorney Chang Hsiu (張修), said he didn’t embezzle the money, which was all used in handling Taiwan’s diplomatic affairs, with some being used for “a third country.”
“I have no idea what Chang said. The US$30 million was earmarked for establishing ties with Papua New Guinea,” Chiou said yesterday when asked for a response.
Meanwhile, Chiou confirmed a report in yesterday’s Chinese-language United Daily News that he and his wife have been divorced two weeks ago.
He said the divorce was not related to the diplomatic scandal, rebutting Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers’ allegations that the divorce was a ploy to transfer his property to his divorced wife to avoid prosecutors’ investigation.
Ker demanded Taipei District Prosecutors Office’s Prosecutor-General Wang Tien-sheng (王添盛) restrain its prosecutors from spreading rumors during an investigation.